Tuesday, June 26, 2012

pile of reading

Ishi: last of his tribe by Theodora Kroeber
Theodora Kroeber was the wife of Alfred Kroeber, the chairman of the Dept of Anthropology at the University of California when Ishi was found. In California you know Ishi. His story is taught in elementary school. Ishi was the last survivor of a small tribe of California Indians. They only made it as long as they had by living in hiding from the Whites. When Ishi found himself alone he no longer cared whether he lived or died, so he turned himself in. The Kroebers helped to find a place for Ishi in his last years. I didn’t think I’d read this book, a story-like biography of Ishi and his tribe in hiding, but once I started it it seemed familiar. I suspect I have read it, perhaps for school, or maybe I heard one of my grade school teachers read it aloud.

Neuromancer by William Gibson
I plucked this tattered copy of Neuromancer from the shelf thinking it would be a good thing to read on our Kauai trip. Turned out it requires a little more concentration than a casual bite, you gotta pay attention to the world Gibson creates. It’s one of the first cyberspace novels (pub. 1984) and some of the territory Gibson pioneers gets taken up by the Matrix movies, among other things.

The Big Splat, or how our moon came to be by Dana Mackenzie
I bought this book when the author gave a talk at a local bookstore. My receipt was jammed in the book and I’m using it as a placemark. 2003. I stuck it on the shelf cuz in the talk Mackenzie pretty much answered the question about the moon’s origins, even showing some nifty animations of the proto-Earth being struck by a Mars-sized body, going all liquid, then coalescing into the Earth and Moon as we know them. Science books, especially astronomy books, often spend a lot of time on earlier theories, and The Big Splat is no exception. I bog down a bit in the review of Aristotle and Anaxagoras.

The Yellow Knight of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
I’ve read L. Frank Baum’s Oz books in order and more than once. They were all available to me as a kid. Not so Ruth Plumly Thompson’s 19 sequels. I became a collector just so I could read those out of print stories. Once I finally got them all in readable if often battered form, I lost interest in first editions and printing variants. I would still like to have copies that contain all the illustrations. The illustrations produced as separate glued-in color plates were too expensive, the publishers thought, to keep in late reprints. If you want those pictures you have to be ready to pay some high prices. I’m really not. Anyway, after I completed the Thompson set, reading them as I got them, basically in random order, I knew some day I would reread them all in the order they’d been written. But I long assumed that would be a rereading of the entire Oz series from the beginning. This spring I decided, since revisiting Baum wouldn’t tell me much I didn’t know, I would reread Thompson on her own. I’ve often liked Thompson’s writing and she deserved an independent evaluation. Yellow Knight features an original Thompson creation in the lead, Sir Hokus of Pokes, a King Arthur-type knight that she introduced in her very first Oz book, The Royal Book of Oz. With Yellow Knight Thompson gives Sir Hokus a back story.

The Hidden Europe: what Eastern Europeans can teach us by Francis Tapon
I saw Mr Tapon give a talk and slideshow at the Berkeley Library a few months ago. Eastern Europe hasn’t featured as one of my dream destinations. The dreariness of the communist legacy being one reason, the persistent homophobia being a strong current obstacle. But Tapon’s twitchy energy and the grand nature of his project (he visited all the countries in person, sometimes couchsurfing) intrigued me. So I put a reserve on one of the library copies of the book. At more than 700 pages it takes time to read; I’ve had to return the book to the library and get it out again. Right now I’m in the midst of his chapter on Hungary.

White Trash Debutante by Jennifer Blowdryer
Jennifer Blowdryer writes her autobiography. Jennifer takes her last name from her first punk rock band, The Blowdryers. Sounds like she formed the band for the most punk rock of reasons, boredom, alienation, not being good at anything she could stand to do, and a need to be the center of attention. I’ve heard her read from her writings and bought this at one of those readings, maybe even the one I asked her to do for Poetry & Pizza.

City of Concrete and Hope by Luke Warm Water
A chapbook of poems by a Lakota/Sioux poet living in Oakland. “My first year living / in the San Francisco bay area / knowing nobody / I ate my Thanksgiving meal with homeless / so I didn’t have to feel so alone”

The Negritude Poets: an anthology of translations from the French edited by Ellen Conroy Kennedy
I brought this anthology home from the library because it contains poems by Tchicaya U Tam’si, a poet who is now represented in my personal anthology by two poems copied out several years apart. U Tam’si’s poems don’t appear until page 200 but I didn’t jump ahead. I guess I wanted to build the suspense. Now that I’ve read this batch of U Tam’si I want to read more. While there are other poets of interest in the anthology U Tam’si is the one I had the most sympathy with. He’s more playful than most.

Legitimate Dangers: American poets of the new century edited by Michael Dumanis and Cate Marvin
My generation. Many of the poets in this 2006 anthology are younger than me – and all have published a book or two (or more). My poems wouldn’t seem out of place among these post-Surrealist, post-Language school works. I’ve gotten to page 79 (a little less than 400 to go). I haven’t yet marked anything for rereading.

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